Wednesday, July 15, 2009

IASPM: iPod Culture: Issues of Sociability and Democratisation in the Musical Experience

By Melissa Avdeef


Melissa Avedeef presented a paper on the sociability, democratization of identity and musical taste for those in the iPod Culture.


The 'iPod Culture' is a term that refers to digital natives [TAPSCOTT, D. (1997)] - those that have grown up surrounded with technologies such as the internet, mobile phones and mp3 players. While it connotes the sector of society that fall within the age category of 20 years and younger, this group of people is not limited to just those that have iPods or other similar technology, but includes all those that are effected by the existence of the hardware and software that saturates society with communication and cultural exposure.


Melissa's research consisted of quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews on young people engaged with music and technology. The surveys and interviews were conducted to gain a view of both the personal and societal perspectives on the relationship between individuals, music and technology.


The development of new sociability in IPod culture

Highlights of the findings of the research include the belief by the youth that music should be omnipresence - that it should always be there for them when ever they want it and that their access should be immediate. In discussing how respondents obtained music, most indicated that they got it by downloading from file sharing networks or from friends with few responding that they purchased CDs.


When asked whether they thought these technologies were making them antisocial respondents indicated that this was not true, that they were not becoming more isolated but more sociable as the instant and unimpeded access to culture promotes conversations rather than preventing them from happening. Interestingly older generations also suggested that this technology did not make people less sociable but that it does make it easier for people to remove themselves from social situations if they wish to.


Melissa suggests that while it is a value judgment to state whether there has been a positive or negative impact on sociability, that nonetheless there have been apparent and identifiable changes. One example of this is changes to social norms with respect to listening to mp3 players while in a conversation with another person. The majority identified two instances in which listening to iPods are considered rude – when a person is talking and they have to repeat themselves and/or when their music is so loud that it can be heard by the other person that does not have the earbuds.


The diversification of musical taste in relation to the online fragmentation of identity.

Melissa's research also suggests that as technology converges musical tastes are becoming increasingly divergent. People are relying less on traditional media to tell them what to listen to and acquiring music on the internet means they can access a whole range of culture that they could not access to before. When asked, most people stated that they "listened to everything".


Related to this are changes to personal identity brought about by new technologies. Respondents indicated that society has largely moved past the desire to remain anonymous on the internet and instead use the medium to extend and explore their personality. Technologies such as social networking enable an extension of the offline self and provide the opportunity to showcase different aspects of identity without the immediate consequences of physical space. These spaces allow the expression of negative thoughts about others which we would not feel comfortable doing in physical space – this is called the dis-inhibition effect.


Therefore the internet and digital technologies allow people to explore both musical tastes and personal identity with these being interrelated and fluctuating based on the dynamics and changes to technology.


This was a fascinating presentation which I enjoyed a lot. The research was well presented and very interesting.

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